Summary: Their story doesn’t end in the woods with tears and death and promises that come too late. Or, basically, a giant screw you to Shonda. These two deserved better, damn it.
Author's Notes: 3,703 words. Plays fast and loose with canon after the season seven finale, but I don't really care because Shonda does this pretty much every day of her life. Somewhat inspired by whatever interview Eric Dane did where he said Mark and Lexie would have given up medicine and moved to Cabo. All mistakes are mine, and, you know what, these two might as well be too. I treat them better! Con-crit is a beautiful thing.
For magisterequitum and duchessofavalon because they are enablers. Also, for lexiesloan just because.
[p r o l o g u e]
Their story doesn’t end in the woods with tears and death and promises that come too late.
Instead, it begins all over again in a hospital room back in Seattle.
Lexie blinks herself awake slowly, the sudden assault of dull light streaming in through the windows blinding her as she does so. Wincing, her head pounds, aching with a fierce thud in the base of her skull. Her throat is tight and hoarse. Her whole body aches, and it takes a moment, a full minute maybe for her to remember those woods, the smell of smoke and steel and the sound of leaves rustling and it has her heart pounding right out of her chest, the panic rising, but the sound of rain hitting the window is familiar. It soothes her, helps her settle back to reality.
Beside her, Mark sleeps sitting up in a chair, his neck bent at an almost unnatural angle. His mouth is pressed into a frown. To the side of him, her father is sprawled on a couch, feet crossed at the ankles and a newspaper spread across his chest, opened to the sports page.
Lexie smiles slowly to herself, thankful for a second chance.
[o n e]
Everyone around her breathes the lucky ones like it should mean something.
They tell her it’s a miracle she even woke up, that Mark survived relatively unscathed, that all Derek lost was his steady hand and Arizona her leg. Cristina loses her mind, just a little, but they don’t like to talk about that. They don’t like to talk about how Derek may never step foot in an operating room again, that Callie and Arizona may never be okay again, that Meredith, like them all, may never be able to forget, haunted by memories triggered by the strangest sounds and smells.
Time will see Callie and Arizona grow back together. Time will see Derek’s livelihood saved by the kindness of his sister. Time helps Cristina find calm and sanity. Time sees Meredith’s belly grow and swell, signaling a rebirth of sorts, a sort of miracle Lexie doesn’t mind believing in.
Her recovery is slow, a trial, another test, but Lexie does what she has always done best and endures.
The lucky ones, they all say, and eventually, when she is in the mood to admit certain things to herself, Lexie supposes there may be a bit of truth in that. She knows they all carry those four days with them as a keepsake, a constant reminder of all that should have been lost, but wasn’t.
Always, they are in constant motion – moving, moving, moving, but never forgetting.
Lexie vows not to allow history to repeat itself.
She’s grown tired of making the same mistakes.
[t w o]
Sleep isn’t something that finds her easily, after.
When she closes her eyes all she can see is a vision of green leaves splattered red against a cold, gray sky.
When she closes her eyes she dreams of gunmen and her mother, and wakes too often in cold sweat and a sense of dread that sits too heavily in her stomach when it takes too long for her to remember she didn’t lose everything in the woods that day.
It is during those nights that she turns to Mark, looks for an absolution, a sense of calm she’s only ever felt with him. It is during those nights that she is thankful that he is already there, permanently by her side now, and she moves into him, presses her body against his until they form a perfect line of muscle and bone.
Lexie kisses him, and he kisses her, and there aren’t words spilt between them during these nights. There are no promises, no declarations, no sweet nothings whispered into skin. They’ve never needed words, the two of them. They’ve always just known. Lexie spent years and men and so many mistakes trying to forget the undercurrent that first pushed them together and then, later, tied them together. Now, she embraces it, is thankful for it, and vows to never let go of it.
In the mornings, he always wakes her with a kiss to the bone of her shoulder, his palm flat between her shoulder blades, pressing her into him. Before, when they were different people with everything to lose, she found it suffocating – his constant need to touch her, to bind her to him. The way he held on without any intent to let go.
Now, Lexie revels in it.
[t h r e e]
“I don’t want to be without you anymore,” she tells Mark.
This is not long after she wakes to him by her side. His mouth quirks; he reaches for her hand. There is nothing adequate to say to that, she thinks, because a simple okay just would not suffice, so he merely leans in and brushes his mouth to hers. Lexie can feel his smile in her teeth. Their mouths meet at the corners.
His hand never leaves hers.
[f o u r]
The hospital wears her thin after her return.
It’s an interesting thing – realizing everything she’s worked for, everything she has lived and breathed for the majority of her adult life no longer holds the meaning it should.
Before everything, the hours, the constant carnage, the depersonalization of surgery as a whole never bothered her. It was an art. A surgeon was meant to be revered, and her career was more than worth all the blood, sweat, tears and heartache that went into it.
Now, the best part of her day aren’t those moment before the first cut of a surgery. Now, it is returning home, to her apartment, to her life with Mark. Now, the best part of her week is the time she spends building a relationship with Sofia, watching as the little girl grows more and more like her father each day. Now, after long days and even longer nights that bleed into each other, she no longer seeks comfort in the bottom of a bottle of tequila but instead finds it in Mark, allowing his hands and mouth and words make her feel alive.
In the aftermath of her survival, Lexie finds her self-worth not by success stories, or the number of surgeries, not in her life with Mark, but instead the happiness she finds within herself.
Her shrink calls it self-actualization, but Lexie sees it as nothing but common sense.
Years ago, when she was young and her father still kissed her skinned knees, her mother warned her against searching for self-worth in all the wrong places.
It makes some sort of poetic sense that she’s only now paying attention.
[f i v e]
“Do you ever think about living anywhere other than Seattle?” she finds herself asking Mark.
The one-year anniversary of the crash is coming up fast. Reporters are calling, begging for a comment, in constant search of a perfect headline. Lexie keeps her phone on silent, disconnects the landline at night. This weekend they have Sofia as Callie and Arizona head upstate for a long weekend away. She’s sound asleep in her crib and if Lexie listens closely enough she can hear the soft sounds of her breathing from the baby monitor they have set off to the side.
Still, now, she finds it amusing how much that sound can calm her nerves. How far they’ve come, she thinks, as the beer between her fingers sweats all over her fingers and Mark searches for a right answer.
“It was never meant to be Seattle for me,” he tells her. “This was never meant to be my life.”
“But?” she prompts when he trails off, kicking him lightly with her foot. It draws a smile from him and he reaches for her then, fingers trailing over the jut of bone at her ankle.
“But things changed,” he says. “I changed.” He stops, catches her gaze and holds it. “You happened.”
Lexie doesn’t look away. Asks, “You stayed for me?” even though she already knows the answer, has always known the answer.
Mark looks down at his hands, takes a long swig of his beer. On the TV, the local forecaster calls for cloudy skies and a slight chance of thunderstorms for the rest of the weekend.
He’s not looking at her when he says quietly, “I stayed for a really long time because of the sheer hope for a you and me. And then Sofia …”
And the rest is history, Lexie thinks but does not say, and the words that come next slip out of her mouth before she can stop them.
“Would you leave it for me? For us?”
“Yeah,” he breathes, and the speed of his reply surprises the both of them. Lexie buries her bare toes between the couch and his thigh, scoots closer to him on reflex. “I think I would.”
[s i x]
The offer comes at exactly the right time, in the midst of a week overfilled with too many deaths and days that bleed together. The hospital is making changes, a new merger is on the horizon, and Mark and Lexie spend entirely too much time questioning their place in Seattle. It was never meant to be their endpoint, after all.
An old colleague from Columbia visits Mark, in desperate need of a favor. He’s a Doctors Without Borders man, this colleague, with grand ideas of saving the world that Lexie and Mark might have had once upon a time but have long since disappeared. There is a clinic, he explains, two hours from Cabo that he’s been running for the past year. He needs help, desperately, and does his best to persuade Mark. He explains that it would be for no more than six weeks, and even though Mark’s answer is originally no, Lexie knows him well enough to understand the laughter that came with the denial rings false, his smile too tight.
For the remainder of dinner, Mark picks at his napkin, and pushes his food around his plate, allows Lexie to monopolize the conversation. He’s thinking about it, she knows, and during the car ride home as they wait at a red light, Lexie gazes at the bright lights of Seattle Grace-Mercy West and is floored by just how much she wants to leave this city, how much she needs a change.
“I want to go,” she tells Mark quietly. He turns to stare at her. “I think I’m going to go,” she tells him, and the surprise on his face should make her second guess herself, but she doesn’t.
Lexie’s whole life has been a series of concrete, well-thought out plans on how to get from A to B. Lexie likes plans, she likes order, she hates messy, but this feels right.
“I have Sofia,” he says quietly. “We have Sofia. We can’t just up and leave.”
“It’s only for six weeks,” she reminds him gently. She recognizes the frightened look in his eyes, and reaches for him, her hand covering his as it rests over the clutch. “And I’m not asking you to go. I’m not giving you an ultimatum, Mark. We’re past that. We’re better than that. I am just telling you that this is what I would like to do, what I think I need to do, and I am hoping for your support, whether it’s from Seattle or down there with me.” Lexie pauses, squeezes his hand. Says quietly, “When I come home after six weeks, it’ll still be to you.”
The car behind them beeps it’s horn, and both Mark and Lexie jerk their gazes up to the light, not realizing it has turned green. It takes Mark a moment to shift the car into gear. They’re quiet the rest of the way home.
[s e v e n]
That night when they make love they’re frantic, needy, The movements of their bodies are desperate, sloppy. Their kisses are open-mouthed and brutal, all tongue and teeth. When they manage to stumble into bed, there is no preamble, no foreplay, no sweet and slow. It is all blinding fire, jagged edges of hipbones meeting hipbones, and fingers grasping for some sort of anchor, some semblance of control.
Mark takes, and Lexie gives, and it’s over too fast, Lexie coming with a loud cry, her teeth sinking into the skin of his shoulder. They don’t talk after, not like they usually do, and they fall asleep half-clothed with their legs and fingers intertwined. It’s the best sleep Lexie’s had since the crash, since she woke up in a hospital somehow born anew into a world that she didn’t really understand anymore.
In the morning, she wakes to sunlight and Mark’s fingers trailing over the slight bruise blossoming on her hip. He tells her he loves her, and she smiles when she kisses him.
“It’s only six weeks,” he says, almost too quietly, as if he’s still trying to convince himself. There are circles under his eyes, and she knows he probably spent the night awake, caught with the overwhelming pressure of indecision.
He moves into her, pressing her into the mattress with the lovely burden of his weight. Lexie kisses the corner of his mouth.
“I think it would be good for you. I think it would be good for us.”
“I have money. I have more money than I need. I could fly up and see Sofia on the weekends. Fly Callie and Arizona down,” he muses, trailing off as he presses between her thighs.
Her smile is slow as blooms across her mouth. Something catches in her throat. “I love you,” she breathes softly.
This time they take it slow, whisper promises into skin, laugh and talk and let the weight of their sighs fall between them. It’s easy, lazy almost. Their movements are instinctive, driven by the sheer intimate knowledge they have collected of each other over the years.
They’re late for work. Neither care.
[e i g h t]
There is a party thrown in their honor their last night in Seattle. Joe’s is filled to the brim with people from the hospital, the family they’ve come to know and appreciate, wishing them good luck.
Lexie and Mark breathe it’s just a few months like it’s a promise they intend to keep.
[n i n e]
The clinic is a simple building with cracks in the foundation and a withering wooden porch that creaks every time somebody walks the perimeter. Lexie and Mark spend the bulk of those first few weeks fixing cracks and windows, painting exam rooms, and replenishing supplies. The public is slow to trust their faces and presence, but eventually Mark’s charm and Lexie’s kindness win them over. The trust is slow to take, but Lexie and Mark act as though they have all the time in the world.
The OR leaves much to be desired, and the language barrier proves more difficult than trying to operate without the materials deemed necessary in the states but are a luxury here. Most days, Lexie and Mark leave their rented house before sunrise and return after sunset, crawling into bed with tired legs and heavy eyes, asleep before they’ve even shifted under the sheets. They are suppose to have weekends off to recuperate, but instead they spend most of their free time doing repairs to the old building and making house calls to those who are unable to make the trip during office hours. The clinic is the only one within a hundred square miles and it’s a curious thing, both Mark and Lexie think, how conveniently that information was withheld when they agreed to their interim here.
It isn’t glamorous and it isn’t easy. There is no glory in their profession here, just blood and guts and the tactical process of putting people back together with the least amount of help and interventions provided for the cause.
There are days, in the beginning, when one or both of them think about mistakes and taste the faint hint of regret in the back of their mouth.
Lexie has these moments more often than she would ever admit, but directly after, with the regret thick in the back of her mouth, she would look up, catch Mark’s eye from across the way, and know, without any doubt, that this is exactly where she needs to be.
[t e n]
Six weeks somehow manages to turn into six months, then eight, then nine.
Meredith and Derek visit when Mark and Lexie are nearing a whole year away from Seattle. Zola doesn’t quite know what to do with the sand and waves, but Meredith gets right in there with her, building drip castles with the patience only a mother can have. Lexie watches them with a smile that makes her cheeks ache, and it’s not the first time she has felt a sense of longing deep in her gut for her mother and the gift of motherhood, but it is the first time she freely admits it is something she wants.
That evening, after Derek and Mark have disappeared to do whatever it is that Mark and Derek do, Meredith drags out the wine and pours them both a glass. They talk about their father, about Zola and Sofia, and the little boy who looks so much like Derek it’s uncanny. It’s only when Meredith brings up Seattle and returning home, that her sister becomes too serious. She asks Lexie when they’re planning on coming home, and when the question is met with only silence, Meredith presses her mouth into a thin line.
“You’re not planning on coming back, are you?” she asks quietly.
Lexie thinks about Seattle then, about everything she left behind nine months ago, and doesn’t miss it as she did in the beginning, during those first few weeks. Somehow, she’d forgotten to miss it at all these past few months. She thinks of her work here, of the clinic, of the people, of the sense of purpose she thought she lost along the way while at Seattle Grace. It’s been nine months, closer to ten now, and Mark and Callie have a visitation schedule set in stone, no more than two weeks apart. Just last month, Callie and Arizona were talking about an extended vacation, and helping out at the clinic. Callie wants to learn how to surf, and Lexie promised to teach her.
“No,” Lexie tells her sister quietly. “I don’t think so.”
Meredith laughs, but only because she had already figured it out.
[e l e v e n]
They buy a house near the water, one that is within walking distance from the clinic. It isn’t exactly the house Mark dreamed of once upon a time, the one with the backyard the size of Montana, but it’s big enough, and the money they save goes towards an expansion on the clinic.
They’ve been in Mexico nearly two years when Lexie discovers she’s pregnant.
When she tells Mark he just laughs like he can hardly believe it, his smile wide as it stretches across his mouth. Lexie cries, only a little, when he reaches for her, pulling her towards where he’s seated on the edge of their bed. His hands grab at her waist, traveling up, up, up until he’s pushing her shirt along with his fingers, exposing the skin of her belly so he can whisper promises to the tiny life growing inside of her. He presses a gentle kiss just below her navel, and she reaches for him, fingers brushing at the gray in his hair. She doesn’t let him dye it anymore, tries not to let him forget that she loves him just the way he is. It’s an easier feat than it used to be.
“There’s no going back now,” she tells him quietly, a half-joke and half-truth all rolled into one. Her smile is wide, full of teeth.
“There was never any going back with you,” he reminds her.
When he looks at her then it’s the happiest she’s ever seen him. It’s the happiest she can ever remember being – here, with him, this life they’re building together just on the verge of beginning.
Mark presses another kiss to her belly, rests his forehead against her stomach after, and Lexie closes her eyes, breathes the moment in and memorizes everything about it so she can carry it with her.
[e p i l o g u e]
Eventually, Mark will give her a ring she doesn’t need, and they will marry on the beach at sunset, their son serving as best man and Sofia maid of honor. Lexie’s dress will be white, but her feet will be bare, the red of her toenails a stark contrast against the white sand, and she will not cry, only smile against the bright sun.
They will write their own vows, reiterating all those wordless promises they made years before. Somewhere after she says I do, but before he is allowed to kiss her, Mark will reach for her, palm flattening against the slight roundness of her belly where their second child together is still growing, and Lexie will fall in love with him, and their family, and the life they’ve built together all over again.
After, when the ceremony is over and all that’s really changed is a piece of paper that tells them what they already knew, the minister will snap a picture of them. Their son insisted on wearing a bowtie and it will sit crooked around his neck as he pulls at the hem of Mark’s jacket and Sofia will be a vision, nearly a teenager by then, as she stands tall at Lexie’s side.
Later, Lexie will sneak back up to the house as Mark plays with the kids on the beach, splashing water and dirtying clothes she’ll have to do tomorrow. She will be able to hear their laughter echo through the air as she starts up the computer and entitles an email see attached for proof.
It’s addressed to all of their family back in the states, and has just one, simple line:
We’re happy here.